For far too long, drunk driving in South Africa has largely been ignored by the authorities and has claimed literally thousands of lives of both drivers and pedestrians over the years. This season, however, the powers-to-be have beefed up their presence on the roads with positively resounding results – the casualties on South African roads have virtually halved.
With new innovative technology that has the ability to trace not only the amount of alcohol consumed but the use of illegal drugs as well, it should only be a matter of time together with concerted efforts by all concerned before the statistics plummet even further.
Fifty percent of dead drivers are over the limit
Although road users are clearly delighted at the zero tolerance approach to drunk driving, startling statistics reveal that as many as 50% of drivers who die on our roads are indeed above the legal limit (0.05 grams per 100 ml).
Figures posted by the Arrive Alive campaign for 2002 and 2003 indicate a marked increase of drivers driving while under the influence of alcohol – from 1.80% to 3.10%. In 2002, it was the North West Province that had the most culprits with as many as 4% driving drunk, but in 2003 Mpumalanga had the dubious honour of topping the list with 4.68%.
Road users in South Africa are far more vulnerable to drunk driving at night and the statistics for 2002 and 2003 make a drastic leap between the hours of 18h00 to 24h00 when as many as 5.50% of all drivers were found to be driving drunk in ’02 and 5.08% in 2003.
Sadly, the death toll has increased exponentially over the years with its only beneficiaries being the overworked car accident attorneys. A study conducted by the Medical Research Council of South Africa in 2004 indicated that more than half of the 570 drivers killed in accidents were over the legal limit, an unacceptable figure by anyone’s standards.
A drunk driver or pedestrian is killed every 2 hours on SA roads
To put things into sharp perspective, a drunk driver or pedestrian is killed on South African roads every two hours (figures for 2004 – 2006), with the most victims claimed in the Gauteng province, closely followed by KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.
A good car accident lawyer will advise you to avoid the local taxis, especially at night, and for very good reason. In 2005 the taxi industry cracked all records by becoming the most dangerous transportation sector, with 7.70% of drivers driving drunk at night. Interestingly enough, the drivers who are least likely to drive while inebriated are truck drivers.
7 Best Car Accident Songs
Cars are a popular theme for songs, especially in the 50s and 60s when music reflected the attitude of teenagers that having a car was unequivocal freedom, pride, and excitement. The most common car songs emphasized the freedom and power of cars, from “Fun, Fun, Fun” by the Beach Boys to “Hey, Little Cobra” by the Rip Chords. But it wasn’t long before the dangers of cars became apparent as car accident deaths were increasing significantly, and teenagers were the most common victims. To reflect this, the car accident song was born, and persists to this day as a distinct subgenre of pop music.
Here are the seven best car accident songs, some popular, some more obscure.
#7 Detroit Rock City by KISS is a rock ballad dedicated to a fan who died in a truck accident on his way to a concert in Detroit. The young man is driving hard to make it to a midnight show when he rear-ends a large truck and is killed. Like all KISS songs, it’s big on beat and small on lyrics, and the actual accident occurs in just a couple seconds with no real lead-up or follow-up.
#6 Ballad of Thunder Road by Robert Mitchum is a song so rich in narrative they built a movie around it, just like “Convoy.” A hooch runner whose souped-up engine roars so loud it sounds like thunder is the hero of the song and film. Full of classic lines “There was moonshine, moonshine to quench the Devil’s thirst / The law they swore they’d get him but the Devil got him first,” and “The mountain boy took roads that even Angels feared to tread.” A little thin material for a movie, but rich for a song, and, like Jim Croce’s “Rapid Roy the Stock-Car Boy,” it reminds us that NASCAR was born of law-defying moonshiners who were folk heroes of people who proudly promote themselves as hicks, hillbillies, and yokels.
#5: Dead Man’s Curve by Jan and Dean. This classic from the heyday of hot rod hits is a moralistic tale of what happens if you ignore parental advice and engage in dangerous street racing. The song is full of the traditional language for the genre of car songs. Like “Hey, Little Cobra,” it names the specific cars (the narrator drives a Stingray and his opponent a Jaguar XKE) and revels in the pleasure of the techniques of racing and the power of the car, whose “mill’s running fine,” but just before the race ends, it cuts to the aftermath of the race, when the narrator recounts the fatal car accident that took the life of the Jaguar driver.
#4: Right Profile by the Clash focuses on the aftermath of Montgomery Clift’s near-fatal accident in 1956. The accident was the beginning of what has been described as “the longest suicide in Hollywood history.” Clift was a rising star with two Oscar nominations, one for his starring role opposite Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun. After leaving a party thrown by Taylor, he veered off the winding road and ran into a telephone pole. His face was smashed by the accident. He had a broken jaw, a broken nose, and two missing teeth (one of which, in a graphic if likely apocryphal account, was removed from his tongue by Taylor). Following his accident, he had plastic surgery, but an alleged addiction to pain medication and self-consciousness about his “deformity” meant he would never be the same, which the Clash vividly captures in a vibrant, stuttering ululation toward the end of the song.
#3 Accident on 3rd Street by Al Stewart is a characteristically lyrical and somber questioning of life’s meaning after a friend is killed by a drunk driver. The service happens on a rainy day and takes just half an hour, conducted by a mumbling preacher. When he appears in court, the driver is described as “the kind of guy even Joan Baez wouldn’t feel nonviolent towards.” Although our narrator is told that it is not ours to reason why, he describes it as “being like a black hole in space a philosophy useless but profound.” Ominously, the narrator seeks to drown his sorrow in alcohol to be just like the driver, and “somewhere out on the highway tonight, the drunken engines roar.”
#2 Days of Graduation by the Drive-By Truckers is the lead-off song to the group’s two-disc Magnum Opus Southern Rock Opera. Perhaps more a narrative delivered over guitar-and-bass underlay, it tells the story of when Bobby’s “442” went off the highway the day before graduation. Its graphic description of the accident, the injuries, and its culmination in the folkloric retelling that “Free Bird” was still playing on the radio when paramedics arrived powerfully sets off the themes of the album: cars, girls, liquor, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
#1 Last Kiss by Wayne Cochran but popularized by J. Frank Wilson and The Cavaliers is the canonical car accident song. Unlike the moralizing “Dead Man’s Curve,” “Last Kiss” notes that even innocent teenagers die in car accidents. The narrator and his “baby” were out for a drive. Like “Dead Man’s Curve,” which it likely influenced, the song works its way up to the accident, then cuts to the aftermath. As explicit as it is in its theme, it powerfully understates some of its imagery with the paratactic phrases describing the accident: “The crying tires, the busting glass, the painful scream that I heard last,” and the hint that after the accident our narrator awakes with “something warm running in my eyes.”
Many of these songs are older because they reflect a different era. Today, car accident songs are more apt to be metaphorical like Matt Nathanson’s 2007 “Car Crash,” which euphemistically upholds a car crash as an apotheosis of feeling that would allow the narrator to escape the numbing tedium of day-to-day life. This transition is partly due to the decreasing rates of car accident fatalities due to improvements in car safety and seat belt use.
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